At the heart of the old city lies the Creek, a wide saltwater inlet which divides the two main city-centre districts of Bur Dubai and Deira and provides a scenic thoroughfare for traditional wooden dhows, abras (water taxis) and the occasional ship.
It is also a perfect snapshot of Dubai’s sometimes startling contrasts between old and new, with traditional coral-and-gypsum houses, wind towers and minarets mixed up amidst the modern development and glassy high-rises. The best, cheapest and most convenient way of seeing the Creek is to take the five-minute ride across it aboard one of the city’s traditional abras – one of the most authentic and inexpensive experiences available in the Emirates.
There are two main routes: the first runs between Bur Dubai Abra Station at the west end of the Textile Souk and Deira Old Souk Abra Station, in front of the Spice Souk. The second goes from Bur Dubai Old Souk Abra Station in the middle of the Textile Souk to Al Sabkha Abra Station, a short walk from Baniyas Square. Boats depart every couple of minutes and the fare costs a modest AED1.
Alternatively, it is also possible to charter an abra for longer tours up and down the Creek. This costs Dhs100 per hour, and boatmen will take you wherever you fancy, either up- or downriver – an hour’s cruise will allow you to ride from the city centre down to the Dubai Creek Golf Club and back again.
A more comfortable way of seeing the Creek is to go on one of the ever-popular after-dark dinner cruises – these can be booked through any of the city’s myriad tour operators, while many hotels can also arrange trips. Most cruises are aboard traditional old wooden dhows, offering a leisurely overview of the night-time city.